The Clash of Epistemologies: A Study of the Transformative Learning of Bilingual Pre-service Teachers Engaged in Simulations in a Virtual Environment


Dr. Leticia De León

Associate Professor
College of Education Student Success Initiative Coordinator
University of Texas- Pan American


The entrenched epistemologies of pre-service teachers were challenged when they encountered a new way to learn using virtual reality.  This mixed methods study examined the extent to which pre-service teachers were willing to transform their views of knowledge.  Transformative Learning Theory (Mezirow, 2000) scrutinizes how adults learn, and so it was the lens used for determining epistemic change.  Data collection was accomplished with two online instruments that represented mixed data sets.  Past epistemologies clashed with new ones as participants considered how their past experiences could be reconciled given new learning tools. Findings indicated that most participants exhibited some transformation despite the fact that the initial disorienting dilemma was seemingly insurmountable. These transformations were only possible for those who were able to find value and motivation in their learning experiences, as well as discern a positive change in themselves as learners and as future teachers.

Key words:  teacher preparation, transformative learning, virtual reality, epistemic views


A rather vexing proposition for teacher preparation programs is how to encourage pre-service teachers to place themselves in an educational landscape that is different from their own personal experiences.  One such dilemma is to acclimate them to new technologies by helping them to embrace them as new and innovative tools that could transform their own teaching.

The truth is that pre-service teachers are adults with a set of epistemic beliefs already entrenched, and if new technologies do not match their conception of how learning occurs—or their personal concepts of what knowledge is—a likely clash will ensue.  Teacher preparation often challenges pre-service teachers’ beliefs about learning, as well as their own identities as future teachers, and when coursework places them in the center of a new technology, their disorientation and difficulty adjusting is even greater.  It is a transformation they are reluctant to make.

Virtual reality is as unexplored a country for many pre-service teachers as any hidden away location in a foreign land.  They have only vague notions of what this environment is, and many consider it a game.  Virtual reality, in particular multiuser virtual environments (MUVEs) like Second Life, does have some similarities with gaming worlds.  However, the differences are significant enough to make them more accessible to educators.  For instance, roles are not static, the environment is not ruled by a set of pre-existing parameters or “rules of play”, and the environment does not reset when the game is done. Its characteristics are that it is immersive, persistently available, social, immediate, and personalizable (Warburton, 2009). This very nature of Second Life is what attracted educators.  As a backdrop for this study, Second Life challenges identity and epistemology for pre-service teachers because they find themselves in a dual role of “real” and “avatar” student in simulated environments. This dual role presents to them a mirror where they could examine their inner potential if they see farther than what their past experiences have thus far allowed them to expect of themselves.

Review of the Literature

Gilbert (2007) makes a distinction between the “Knowledge Age” in which we live in today and the “Industrial Age”, and that each are marked by different mental models.  The Industrial Age’s mental models were distinguished by the fact that knowledge is more static, organized in different disciplines, which can be learned by the individual (Gilbert, 2007).

This is the educational landscape that pre-service teachers still carry with them.  As a result, they expect that new generations of students will have the same educational needs as they did, and therefore, may continue to use the same educational models and tools that were utilized with them.  They have very little notion of the fact that the world has moved on, and that society requires the preparation of its children to adapt to these new changes.  This means letting go of past epistemologies..

By contrast, the “Knowledge Age” is marked by a different set of mental models, which are better equipped to handle the educational demands of a technology-laden age.  These do not just define what knowledge is, but also how learning should happen, and how the mind should work to accomplish this learning.  In this model knowledge is a process, which is continually developing and generating, so that it is not static (Gilbert, 2007).

Thus far, studies that examine epistemic shifts for pre-service teachers seem to agree that such transformations take time.  Snyder (2012) further noticed that adults tend to become more emotionally invested in new learning in comparison to other groups.  Her case study followed four women in a secondary master’s program, where she found that big ideas related to epistemologies need to be continually revisited, that learning should be experiential and authentic, that relationship building is important, and that reflection needs to become automatic.  What she found seemed to support what English and Irving (2012) said about women and transformation.  For women, transformative learning experiences were possible if they included a building of trust relationships for support systems.  Emotions also largely guided their ability to cope with the disorienting dilemma.  Because this study’s participants were all women, drawing on this parallel is important to note at this point.

Another study of pre-service teachers in a technology-laden disorienting dilemma also indicated that transformation is more likely when participants saw value in their experiences (De Leon and Peña, 2010).  This study revealed that pre-service teachers’ view of their own learning were often what frustrated the possibility of change at the initial stages of the study.  Emotional reaction played a role in this study, as well, for participants with more positive views were more open to transformation.

Furthermore, a study by Schwartz and Purcell (2002) showed that challenging and changing epistemologies in pre-service teachers may also be helped or affected by constructivist views of teacher preparation program practices.  Their study found the epistemic views of 41 master teachers changed in a short period of time—four weeks—in an instructional design course utilizing multimedia technologies.  They administered a pre- and post-test epistemology questionnaire to reveal these findings.

Other studies with pre-service teachers supported this epistemic shift as a crucial element of learning new technologies.  For instance, Schwarz, Meyer, & Sharma (2007) found that in order for their 25 pre-service teachers to align their epistemologies to the content and technologies they would use, they needed to change their original ideas of knowledge.  They recommended the teacher preparation programs include strong examples of technology integration in order to help them guide that change.  Still another study conducted by Dirkx, Kielbaso, & Smith supported the assertion that strong reflection and problem solving should be part of programs that support technology as a tool for learning.  The pre-service teachers in this study also had to look into their own epistemic beliefs—and change them—in order to fully embrace technology as a tool that helped process higher order thinking in learning, rather than just a presenter of static knowledge.

The trend in all these studies is that epistemic beliefs hold tremendous sway over pre-service teachers’ ability to be ready for the challenge of teaching in increasingly complex classrooms with more varied technological tools.  Because technology is changing constantly, teacher preparation should foster a need to change epistemologies.  Without effecting such a change, pre-service teachers may find it difficult to cope with the modern demands of teaching. 

Theoretical Perspective

The proposition that epistemologies should change can best be examined through the lens of transformative learning theory.  Mezirow (2000) described this theory as one that is well-suited for adult learners.  In many ways, transformative learning theory is about how adults gain true learning and insight only through epistemic change.  The philosophy of adult education that drives it is described as follows:

Adult education may be understood as an organized effort to assist learners who are old enough to be held responsible for their acts to acquire or enhance their understandings, skills, and dispositions.  Central to this process is helping learners to critically reflect on, appropriately validate, and effectively act on their (and others’) beliefs, interpretations, values, feelings, and ways of thinking (Mezirow, 2000, p. 26).

In transformative learning, the possibility that our epistemologies may be altered depends in large part on how we are made to face our old ones.  Taylor and Cranton (2012) assert that in transformative learning, the individual revises previously held perceptions when learning occurs because we begin to question them upon new examination.

However simply this internal process may seem, the opposite is actually true.  Transformation is a difficult, arduous process, made the more so because past experience holds us fast to our beliefs:  we expect that the conditions we experienced in the past will be unchanged in the present (Mezirow, 1991).   

Other dimensions of transformative learning also apply here, as the theory has changed and been reinterpreted many times over (Taylor and Cranton (2012).  Transforming epistemologies—given that context and experience are critical—should also consider the new ways of learning that emerge with using technology tools to both deliver new learning, and engage learners in learning.  Smith (2012) reviews the literature of online instruction and the conditions that foster transformation.  She identified four general criteria:  1) strong pedagogy behind the course design, 2) learner centered approaches, 3) ability to foster interactions, and 4) engagement in self reflection.  Her critical review indicated that transformative learning is best fostered in immersive environments that allow for simulation and role-play.  Second Lifeis one such environment named.

Therefore, transformative learning theory’s application to this study is relevant and appropriate.  Additionally, the researcher found it crucial to explore transformations of pre-service teachers’ epistemologies because they are being trained to be professionals in a changing world that embraces technology.

Pre-service teachers cannot enter the profession thinking that traditionalist concepts of teaching will be enough for children born to the age of Web 2.0 technologies.  They also need to be challenged into facing their current view of education—which is based on their own past experience—in order to strengthen themselves as educators, and by default, the profession in general.

Clearly, the demands on new teachers hold new challenges, and certainly, require epistemic shifts in thinking in order for real learning to take place.  Learning in the technology age is no longer about static information, but about processes.  Transformative learning speaks directly to this process.  Learning in this new age of technology requires an eyes-wide-open look into our pre-conceived ideas, an opportunity to turn them upside down, to accept them, and be prepared to deal with them on a practical thought-guides-action manner.  Mezirow (2000) calls them habits of mind, and he expounds on the need to create new beliefs that are more on par with the needs of current learning, and hopefully, insight some form of action from it.

Furthermore, the process of transformation, as outlined by Mezirow (2000), implies a series of paradigm shifts that interact continually throughout the process.

  1. 1.      a disorienting dilemma
  2. 2.      self-examination with feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or shame
  3. 3.      critical assessment of assumptions
  4. 4.      recognition that one’s discontent and the process of transformation are shared
  5. 5.      exploration of options for new roles, relationships, and actions
  6. 6.      planning a course of action
  7. 7.      acquiring knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plans
  8. 8.      provisional trying of new roles
  9. 9.      building competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships
  10. 10.  a reintegration into one’s life on the basis of conditions dictated by one’s new perspectives (p. 22)

Virtual reality is compellingly immersive, but Second Life in particular has a daunting learning curve, which establishes a rather impressive disorienting dilemma.  This is why the meaningfulness of the purpose for using it in teacher preparation needs to be captivating enough to overcome it.




Study Methods

Research Problem

Challenging pre-service teacher epistemologies is an important part of teacher preparation.  Kincheloe (2004) indicates that teachers should be educated in programs that encourage them to become aware of the complexities of being a teacher—as thinkers, as learners, and as conveyers of knowledge.  He further states that “becoming educated, becoming a critical complex practitioner necessitates personal transformation” (2004, p. 58).  What Kincheloe indicates is important because a pre-service teacher has many naïve conceptions of education, and because they are not yet true members of the profession—not yet immersed in the school’s culture, in the experience of understanding the learning needs of children, or in the situation of having to understand the politics of a school, and the greater accountability issues of the 21st century—their epistemologies are dissonantly inadequate and should be primed for change.

Yet, overcoming pre-service teachers’ initial fears of new technology is a daunting task because it is also colored by their preconceived ideas of how technology fits into their future classrooms.  Most of them remember how they were taught when they were in grade school—a time lapse of ten to twenty years, depending on the pre-service teachers’ ages.  Even more astonishing is that many of them still retain the belief that they will be applying the same type of teaching methodologies and materials that were used when they were the students.  This results in resistance to technology that heightens frustration levels and makes new learning almost insurmountable.  Given that most of them were not taught using the technologies named here, their epistemologies are grounded in traditionalist practices.  In order for pre-service teachers to reach a transformation, they must critically assess their current epistemologies in the face of a dilemma. The educational landscape contains all manner of technology-laden tools for learning, which include new hardware such as iPads and smart devices, as well as applications and authoring tools that offer new ways to immerse the learner and engage learning.  These include games, simulations, and applications that utilize 3D and virtual reality technology.  Many children and learners in this digital age are now identifying themselves as “avatars” to establish virtual presence, whether they be in social media or games.

In order to capitalize on this momentum, new teachers need to face their current educational philosophies to come to terms with this new learner.  Studying the transformative quality of simulated experiences in immersive, three dimensional environments, might reveal a new venue for “field basing” teacher preparation courses, so that students gain control over their learning and practice.  It encourages pre-service teachers to engage in problem solving through immersive experiences, such as teaching simulations, and then reflect on the experience in order to learn how to improve teaching methods.  This is vital if our future teachers are to be prepared for technology-savvy children.  The teacher should be fearless and ready to interact and challenge these children.  This cannot occur with a technology biased and poorly trained teacher. Indeed, Dirkx, Kielbaso, and Smith (2004) assert that learning in technologies that promote higher level thinking and problem solving “depend in part on the beliefs and assumptions with which teachers frame the learning tasks” (p. 28).  Their study examined the epistemic beliefs of teachers who were immersed in technology for teaching.  Their concluding statement, however, really drives home the point that for teachers, using new methods requires more shifts than just the obvious cognitive one for learning:

Transformation of beliefs and perspectives among teachers and trainers involves a complex reflection on epistemic beliefs and assumptions, recognition of and working through emotional issues associated with a new role, and reworking of one’s sense of identity as an educator (p. 44).

Therefore, transformative learning in technology-infused methods requires a view at multiple shifts in perception.  Consequently, the purpose of this study was to describe how teaching experiences in Second Life transformed pre-service teachers’ epistemic views of learning to teach.  The research question that guided this study was as follows:  to what extent did using virtual reality alter pre-service teacher epistemologies on technology as a tool for learning?

Research Design

The mixed methods of this study best fit what Creswell (2009) describes as a concurrent transformative design.  Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected simultaneously, driven by the theoretical perspective of Transformative Learning Theory.  This mixed method strategy was utilized for this study because the examination of epistemologies required not only a sense of whether transformation had occurred, but under what conditions and why these conditions worked.  Quantitative data can provide clear numbers, but in social research, it is the qualitative responses that add richness to the numbers.  Gathering both types of data concurrently—and giving them both the same weight in analysis—also allowed it to be cross validated.


The participants of this study were 28 women engaged in their second semester of teacher preparation.  The group was static due to their enrollment in a social studies and language arts methods course taught entirely online, with Second Life augmentation.  All participants were specializing in elementary bilingual education, and all of them were biliterate in English and Spanish.  They were also all new to Second Life.


            Two survey instruments were utilized to gather data for the study:  Final Second Life Survey, and Second Life Questionnaire.  Both were created by the instructor, and they served a dual role:  1) to provide data in order to determine how learning was transformed, and 2) to find ways of improving the course for future cohorts by way of determining their learning dispositions, preferences, and skill sets. 

The Final Second Life Survey consisted of 12 quantifiable statements that students rated on a 1-10 scale with the exception of the last two items.  Its purpose was primarily to determine how well they handled the Second Life program skill.  Determining the level of skill and usage was important to establish a base line by which to determine the extent of transformative learning.  The survey was posted online in a Blackboard assessment tool, and it was set to be untimed, with each question delivered separately.  Participants completed it anonymously.

The Second Life Questionnaire, by contrast, was a qualitative tool, composed of 10 open-ended reflection questions.  The purpose of this instrument was primarily to determine to what extent and under what circumstances transformative learning had occurred, as well as how participants interpreted the value of Second Life as a tool for their own learning.  The questionnaire was also delivered online through a Blackboard assessment tool, and it was also untimed, with each question delivered separately.  Participants did not complete this questionnaire anonymously because the instructor wanted to encourage a richness of responses from each participant, and thus, issued extra credit for all elaborated responses.  However, upon download, and for the purpose of this study, all identifiable information was deleted.

Both of these instruments were released to the participants roughly at the same time at the end of their semester-long experiences.

The Second Life Experiment and Data Collection

The experimental portion of the study required an intense treatment by way of using Second Life for certain projects.  Students were trained to use Second Life at the beginning of the course, and they received a syllabus that contained explanations and due dates for the Second Life assignments.  As part of the equipment requirements, participants had to purchase a headset with microphone. 

Second Life was used as a tool for learning through several types of activities, which included virtual fieldtrips, building and designing instructional spaces, and role playing simulation.  The role playing simulations were the ones that most directly placed participants in situations that enabled them to learn to teach.  As such, these were the ones that required more reflection and that most clearly challenged their perceptions of learning.  They expected traditional classrooms, and instead, they were transported into virtual reality.

These simulations were completed in groups of five or six participants, with  each participant planning mini-lessons on a particular skill or content area—such as an integrated language arts skill with social studies content, like history.  Once the plan was completed, each group would determine a meeting time prior to the due deadline, to meet in Second Life in order to enact the role playing simulations. 

During the simulation events, each participant took their turn as the teacher, with the rest of the group members changing their avatar to look like a child, so they would participate as elementary school children.  All participants had already been trained on how to create the child avatar to make quick switches between the adult teacher and the child student.  In this manner, each teacher led the pre-planned lesson—about 10-20 minutes each—then the next teacher would step up, changing from child to adult avatar in seconds.  In this fashion, everyone in the group had an opportunity to be the teacher.  Three total role playing simulations were assigned, which included the written plan, and rubrics for self and group evaluations.  Each group had flexibility to complete the role playing simulations by meeting at times that best suited them, as long as the posted deadlines were met. 

At the end of the semester, and upon completion of all simulations, both survey tools were released electronically so all participants could complete them.


Data Analysis

Preliminary data analysis included isolating the items from each instrument that were specially designed to examine the transformative process.  Once these were separated, then they were categorized and analyzed for evidence of epistemic view shifts.  Both qualitative and quantitative data merged during this process. Below is a brief overview of how data were selected and analyzed for quantitative and qualitative data sets.

Quantitative data were extracted from The Final Second Life Survey.  The following two questions from this survey were utilized for data analysis in this study:

1.      Using the scale provided, rate the educational value of the following items.  The term “educational value” is defined by that which helped you practice tasks in virtual reality that you will be applying in real life as a future teacher.

a.      Simulations

2.      Using the scale provided, rate your level of motivation and interest in doing the following Second Life activities:

a.      Simulations—playing the teacher

b.      Simulations—playing the student

When analyzing data presented on a scale of 1 to 10, three categories were created to group these ranges.  The first category was the Low Range, which indicated a compilation of scaled ratings 1-3.  This range indicated the least likely possibility that the above items were viewed in a positive light.  The second category was the Mid Range, which indicated a grouping of scaled ratings 4-7.  At this mid range, ratings were likely to be neither positive nor negative.  Finally, the third category was the High Range, which was a compilation of scaled ratings 8-10.  These were the most likely to indicate positive views on the above items.  

Qualitative data were gathered by the Second Life Questionnaire, and the following questions were selected for inclusion and analysis in this study:

  1. 1.      What changes in the manner in which you learn do you feel you need to make to use Second Lifesuccessfully?
  2. 2.      How do you feel learning with Second Life will change the way you view your future as a teacher?

Analysis utilized concept mapping to organize like ideas as they emerged from the responses.  From this organization, categories were identified that best described the views of the participants. 



Educational Value. The quantitative data set were analyzed through the scaled ratings of the question, which asked participants about the educational value of Second Life for training them to be better teachers, in particular that of the simulations.  Scaled ratings were high as indicated in Table 1, with 20 of the 28 participants finding value in the simulations.  This is tremendously important, given the fact that participants began with high feelings of misgiving.  Therefore, this was an indication that they were beginning to accept other technology models as useful tools for preparing them than the more traditional face to face platforms.

Table 1:  Educational Value of the Simulations


  Low Range   Mid Range   High Range  
N 1 2 3 Low Range Total 4 5 6 7 Mid Range Total 8 9 10 High Range Total
28 1 1 1 3 1 0 2 2 5 8 7 5 20

Interest and Motivation.  The second quantitative question yielded two data sets to show interest and motivation in the simulated activities.  This was done because participants had two roles to play in these simulations:  the teacher and an elementary student.  Table 2 illustrates a breakdown of the interest and motivation as it relates to the participants’ role as a teacher.  Once again, the scaled ratings are higher on the continuum, indicating that students showed positive affect—and therefore more willingness to change their views–when participating in these simulations as the teacher.  One may surmise that the higher the interest, the higher the likelihood they found the activity valuable in attaining important teacher skills.



Table 2:  Interest and Motivation in Simulations as the Teacher


  Low Range   Mid Range   High Range  
n 1 2 3 Low Range Total 4 5 6 7 Mid Range Total 8 9 10 High Range Total
28 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 5 6 10 5 6 21

While this researcher feels that the most important role was that of the teacher, the student role seemed to have helped participants see both perspectives in the learning process.  Table 3 breaks down the scaled ratings of the participants’ interest and motivation when they were playing the role of the student. 

Table 3: Interest and Motivation in Simulations as the Student


  Low Range   Mid Range   High Range  
n 1 2 3 Low Range Total 4 5 6 7 Mid Range Total 8 9 10 High Range Total
28 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 3 9 5 10 24

The high range dominates the scaled scores, even higher than those indicated in the teacher role.  This may indicate that seeing learning through the eyes of a child may have also encouraged them to reconsider their views on teaching and learning. 




To measure qualitatively epistemic shifts, participants were asked what they felt they needed to change about their learning practices to accommodate this new platform.  This question was important in that it asked them to evaluate themselves as learners and hopefully see change as important.  Seven categories emerged, but the last item is a note that one participant could not answer the question.  Figure 1 quantifies the responses into the major categories that emerged.  The response categories were an interesting mix of true self-reflection and avoidance or disregard of what the question truly asked.  In fact, the largest two categories refused to even consider that they should change at all to learn in this new format.  Those whose preferences were entrenched continued to believe that difficulties in learning were due to the online platform of the class presentation because they felt that it was at odds with their learning styles.  Online readings defeated them constantly because a professor did not “lecture” to them.  This may also account for the second largest category, that of more face to face training.  These two categories indicated groups of participants who preferred to be talked to than immersed in the actual tasks.  This accounted for 36% of the responders. 





Figure 1:  Changes in Learning Practices in the Self



The group that indicated true self reflection was larger, though—61%.  These included more open-mindedness, disciplined in time management to complete assigned tasks, overcoming fear and nerves, dedicate more time to practice, and even learn to adjust to the different platform for the course.  This larger group recognized that they had the means of becoming active participants in their own learning, and were therefore more open to change their views of themselves as learners.

Another open ended response  was one that asked the participants to identify ways in which Second Life might change their view of themselves as future teachers.  Six categories emerged for this question, as illustrated in Figure 2.  As noted, some broader categories emerge here, as well.  On the one hand, some participants reacted positively to technology, from the use of Second Life to other technologies that would make their teaching more engaging and innovative.  In this same broad category are those whose acceptance of technology increased.  This group constituted over half of the participants—57%. 



Figure 2:  Changes in View of the Future as a Teacher



Another broad category that emerged was that of negativity—22%—which included those that did not change their opinions about the future for them—one that still does not need technology, and Second Life specifically—and the group who saw the future of teaching in a fatalistic, dystopic manner—the idea that robots will be doing our jobs soon and that technology was ruining human interaction in the schools. This was an astonishing category because it brought up a fear about technology that did not fit the way Second Life operates, since it requires human interaction to thrive as a learning environment.  What may account for this minority response was that they may have been voicing a fear about technology that had been with them for a while—a reason for rejecting it out of hand.  This small group of participants would seem to indicate an unwillingness to change epistemologies.

One smaller group spoke about pedagogy in particular, about how Second Life was a useful tool in gaining experience in planning and organization.  If nothing else, this group acknowledged that they would not have realized just how much the student variable may cause their best laid plans to go awry, or that poor planning leads to poor instruction. 

Mixed Methods Matrix. To conclude, Table 4 combines all data sets utilized in this study, and which summed up the results that attempted to respond to the following research question:  to what extent did using virtual reality alter pre-service teacher epistemologies on technology as a tool for learning?

Table 4:  Overall Mixed Methods Matrix

Educational Value of Simulations Interest & Motivation in Simulations as Teacher Interest & Motivation in Simulations as Student Changes in Self Changes in Educational Views
High Range Scale Scores:  20 High Range Scale Scores:  21 High Range Scale Scores:  24 True Self-Reflection: 17 Positive Reactions to Technology:  16
Mid Range Scale Scores:  5 Mid Range Scale Scores:  6 Mid Range Scale Scores:  3 Avoidance/Entrenched Beliefs:  10 Negative Reactions to Technology:  6
Low Range Scale Score:  3 Low Range Scale Score:  1 Low Range Scale Score:  1 No Response:  1 Pedagogy Awareness: 6

Thus far, data seem to indicate a trend toward epistemological change.  Placing an overview of all data sets side by said also reveals an implied process of transformation with different dimensions.  While quantitative data did indicate a much higher inclination toward epistemic change, qualitative data appeared to be a bit more reserved, as if the reasons for change were not yet fully cemented in the participants’ minds.


To what extent did using virtual reality alter pre-service teacher epistemologies on technology as a tool for learning? Examining how pre-service teachers’ justified beliefs may have changed is a bit tricky.  In terms of this study, the participants were being asked to re-examine how they view knowledge and learning with technology.  For full epistemic transformation to occur, participants needed to accept the new system and acknowledge that learning under a new paradigm also required that we shift the way we learn.   The first step is to acknowledge the value of the new system.  In this case, most of the participants seemed to have accepted this.  However, acknowledgement is not enough without a form of commitment to the new system.  In this instance, more than half the participants identified ways in which they can accept and commit to this new system by naming the changes that occurred for them.  Over 50% of them made this critical epistemic shift, where they also accepted technology as an integral part of their teaching, whether it includesSecond Life or not.  In this sense, virtual reality did alter their epistemic views to some degree, though not as significantly as it could have.  Some epistemologies were simply too entrenched.


Implications for the Field

Future teachers are at the forefront of a new learning frontier that they may not always understand.  Training is certainly important to them, and they expect that their teacher preparation program will prepare them to teach.  For the most part, these programs fulfill this expectation.  However, preparation to teach shouldn’t just be about the technique and the methods and the strategies.  The implications of this study seem to advice on seeking more.

The first implication is that teaching should not be viewed as a simple exercise in gaining information.  Seeking to meet the status quo of a current epistemology only serves to create teachers who cannot use the new technology tools already making their way into the classrooms.

Second, the technology tools used in teacher preparation must be such that are used in meaningful contexts and that show a direct, applicable value to the profession.  Pre-service teachers will be more willing to change their epistemologies if they see how it will impact their teaching.  It needs to offer valuable practice in methods that they would be unlikely to get in a real college classroom or in public schools during field basing.  Therefore, instructors inSecond Life need to provide their students with an important reason for using it.  This is true of any discipline, but for pre-service teachers who are already field based, it is even tougher for them to accept or understand why this application would even be needed at all.

The third implication is that priming pre-service teachers for epistemic change should also allay the strong emotion that immediately follows the disorienting dilemma.  For women in particular, they need support groups within their cohorts to better cope with the confusing changes that come from utilizing difficult technologies like virtual reality.  Convincing them  that this is an effective tool for learning methods and pedagogy may be a difficult sale to make, and instructors need  to begin every semester with sessions that are intended to reassure and train.  An essential component of this is to remain understanding, patient, and flexible at the beginning, so that they may overcome their initial fears and accept that it is not as difficult or intimidating as they may feel it is. 

Transformative learning did not come easy for these participants, and future research needs to address the above implications so that the process is not so painful or reluctant as it was for this group. Virtual reality environments like Second Life can be useful tools for challenging epistemologies of pre-service teachers because they offer a mirror into themselves.  However, true transformation can only occur if this mirror shows them that their teaching can be more powerful and their abilities much more on par with what the future learners’ need of them.








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